The DWP is facing the mother of all backlashes over its Universal Credit claims

DWP Logo with Stop and Scrap Universal Credit badges
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has faced mounting criticism over its claims about Universal Credit.

Universal Credit: in the spotlight

On Monday 7 May, Channel 4‘s Dispatches programme turned its attention to Universal Credit – the new welfare payment from the DWP. It featured stories of people who’ve suffered hardship due to the benefit. As HuffPost reported, these included taxi driver Robert Petch. Because he’s self-employed, any benefits he received previously would now fall under Universal Credit. He told the programme:

The job centre advised me to quit self-employment and they said that I’d be financially better off if I wasn’t working… We are now homeless, the children are living with my parents, the family has split up completely. We did have a dog, which was taken into foster care and since has been re-homed.

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Universal Credit as a system … it’s just taken my life, ripped it apart and flushed it down the toilet.

But Dispatches also revealed that two out of three DWP staff members think the Universal Credit rollout should be paused. One whistleblower told the programme:

A lot of [claimants] can miss their payments… It could mean that they won’t be able to eat for another couple of days, it’s very tough on them.

The DWP responds

The DWP took to Twitter to try and refute Dispatches‘ claims:

First DWP Universal Credit tweet

Second DWP Universal Credit tweet

Third Universal Credit tweet

Fourth Universal Credit tweet

Fifth Universal Credit tweet

An unimpressed Twitter

Unsurprisingly, the DWP left many people less than impressed:

Campaign group Refuted mocked up its own version of the tweets:

This social media user had their own ideas about Universal Credit:

While this person said Universal Credit was causing “uproar”:

A search of the Dispatches hashtag shows the level of anger at the department and Universal Credit.

Overarching concerns

Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has extensively detailed its concerns over Universal Credit. These include:

  • Up to one million low paid workers being subject to the same welfare and sanctions regime that disabled people have been living with.
  • The government administering Universal Credit wholly online, when around 2.9 million disabled people (22%) have never used the internet.
  • The DWP ignoring GPs’ sick notes under Universal Credit. Instead, all sick and disabled claimants will have Health and Work Conversations. These are mandatory work-focused interviews to assess “what they [claimants] can do rather than what they cannot”.
  • An increase in the sanctions regime, linked to the Health and Work Conversations.
  • Some disabled people and couples losing up to £5,195 a year due to changes to entitlements.
  • The effect of the benefit on people living with mental health issues – specifically possible forced therapy.

Despite the concerns of DPAC and others, the government has barely made any concessions on Universal Credit. It seems the DWP, in the face of public criticism, is still in blanket denial over the chaos surrounding its flagship reform. Time will tell as to whether Universal Credit will ever be consigned to the dustbin of history. But currently, it’s making countless people’s lives a nightmare.

Get Involved!

– Support DPAC and Black Triangle, campaigning for disabled people’s rights.

– Read The Canary‘s full analysis of Universal Credit.

Featured image via DPAC and UK government – Wikimedia 

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